Preparations for the 53rd session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) will kick off this year on March 17.
This year, the Conference of Ministers will be held under the theme “Africa’s sustainable industrialisation and diversification in the digital era in the context of Covid-19’.
According to organisers of the conference, the theme recognises the continent’s desire to industrialise and create jobs for the millions of its populace, in particular the youth joining the labour market annually.
Stephen Karingi, who is ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade division director, said with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) now up and running, the theme comes in handy, offering ministers and experts a platform to discuss the need to ensure that digitalisation strategies are integrated into policy and planning frameworks for industrialisation.
He said: “The AfCFTA comes in handy during these difficult times where the continent is fighting Covid-19. It is crucial that our governments establish institutional arrangements for cooperation on the digital economy, and provisions to support digital capacities and industrialisation and connect African businesses.”
The coming into force of the AfCFTA signalled a unique turning point in the continent’s pursuit of industrialisation; with e-commerce, a key catalyst in digitalised economies, being a key cornerstone of the pact’s infrastructure.
A main element of this year’s theme is the recognition of the need for African countries to achieve rapid economic growth without exacerbating the environmental cost of development.
The meeting will call for an alignment of development strategies with climate change mitigation measures, recognising that industrialisation while being an effective engine of growth for many developed countries, has come at a severe cost to the global climate.
According to the ECA, African countries will need to implement development strategies that recognise that better, safer and more inclusive growth is one that involves strong climate action and efficient use of natural resources.
The theme also recognises that Africa’s developmental path must minimise the aberration of developed nations and instead seek to embrace modernisation through digitalisation and less climate-costly industrialisation activities.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected Africa’s economy pushing it into contraction, for the first time in more than 20 years, by an estimated 2 to 5.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, it has further highlighted the need for accelerating Africa’s digitalisation.
The meeting will conclude on March 23.